Medical syringes washed up on New Jersey beaches in the 1980s to the horror of beachgoers. The Guardian reports that British beaches are being likewise befouled by balloons and plastic bags of dog feces discarded by owners. In fact, the latter is said to be “one of the biggest single threats” to the health and safety of beach visitors, according to the Beachwatch Big Weekend Report issued by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) .
The MCS has found an 11 percent increase in bags of dog excrement on UK beaches from 2010 to 2011. The biggest increase was in Scotland, which saw a 71 percent increase in that time period, based on data collected by the MCS. The data was collected by 4,500 volunteers who gathered for the MCS’ Beachwatch Big Weekend 2011 and cleaned 335 beaches. They collected 247,914 items of litter and filled 2,177 bags. For every kilometer surveyed, volunteers found almost 1,741 pieces of litter.
There is some good news: Overall litter on beaches was down by 11 percent. Indeed, there was a 33 percent decrease in sewage-related debris (SRD), this being items people flush down their toilets but should not — “cotton buds, condoms, sanitary towels and tampon applicators.”
Lauren Davis, the MCS’ Beachwatch officer, noted that the increase is discarded bags of dog waste is a sign that more people are using beaches, a positive change. However, as she says in the Guardian:
“Leaving a bag full of poo on the beach will result in preserved excrement, protected from the elements for years by a bag which could take a long time to break down.”
“We don’t want children picking up bags that break open and spill their contents whether it’s fresh or ‘mature’. Dog poo is a source of high levels of bacteria and can lead to reduced water quality, and also poses a human health risk.”
The MCS also found an 8 percent increase in balloon waste on beaches. Davis emphasized that letting go of bunches of balloons is simply a bad idea; there is, she says, “clear evidence” of balloons harming wildlife.
We humans can find other ways to celebrate weddings and festive occasions than sending off bunches of balloons — and how much of an effort is it to dump those plastic bags in the garbage?
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Photo by DanCentury